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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Marriott Opens Airport Service Counter

Hotel executives say it is a major step forward in customer service. Airport officials say it will boost the image of their much-maligned passenger terminal.

The object of their hopes is the new Marriott hotel service counter that officially opened Thursday in the arrival hall at Sheremetyevo Airport's Terminal 2, Russia's main entry point for foreigners.

The counter - which is actually a metal kiosk brightly packaged in Marriott's red and white corporate colors - sits somewhat incongruously amid a shabby row of taxi service stalls and abandoned information booths.

Hailing the addition as a welcome step toward the improvement of the airport, hotel and airport officials held a ribbon-cutting ceremony Thursday at the representative office. The counter is designed to help arriving Marriott guests with the basics of getting themselves and their luggage from the airport to one of the three downtown hotels the U.S.-based chain runs in Moscow.

"This is a holiday not only for Marriott, but for the Sheremetyevo Airport as well," said Viktor Fedoseikin, the airport's director for passenger and ground handling services.

"Maybe it will even help boost the image of Sheremetyevo Airport as well," he added.

Sheremetyevo has long been reviled by foreign passengers for its run-down and dimly lit interior, spotty ground service and the predatory bands of taxi drivers who prowl the terminals looking for passengers that can be coerced into paying the "official price" of $70 for passage to downtown Moscow.

"We felt it was absolutely time to open an airport representative office here," said Jeroen Gerrese, the Marriott's general manager in Moscow, adding that 600,000 guests of his hotel pass through Sheremetyevo's gates every year.

Surprisingly, when Marriott decided to open the counter about a year ago, it found that there was no space immediately available to rent in the arrivals hall.

On Thursday, about a third of the arrivals hall counters were shuttered or otherwise closed, while only a portion of the remainder appeared to be conducting business.

Marriott's only direct competition in the arrival hall is a kiosk-like counter run by Novotel, a French-owned hotel located at Sheremetyevo.

Sergei Frolov, airport sales supervisor for Novotel, did not appear overly concerned about the arrival of his new neighbors.

"I think we'd help each other in a pinch. I don't feel there's a lot enmity between us," he said.

Other international hotels in Moscow showed little interest Thursday in opening offices at Sheremetyevo, saying they occasionally sent cars to meet guests but otherwise stayed clear of the airport.

However, Gerrese said he believes the kiosk will help lure guests away from competing hotels.

"If a guest is staying at a competing hotel then we [still assist him] because we are in the service industry and, obviously, the guest doesn't forget that. So maybe for the next time you gain a customer," he said.